Southern Company has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to a scientist who questions whether human activity causes climate change. He’s been cited by conservative politicians, but hasn’t always disclosed his financial backing.
Willie Soon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, has published theories that are considered a minority position in the scientific community. Atlanta-based Southern Company is one of his biggest donors. According to documents released by the Climate Investigations Center, an advocacy group, Southern Company has given Soon $179,945 since 2008. A New York Times article, citing additional documents, found that the company had given him more than $400,000.
“Well I can’t say I was surprised,” said Neill Herring, a lobbyist with the Georgia Sierra Club. He said Southern Company has fought climate change regulation for years. “They studied the work of the tobacco industry. You deny it and you deny it and you deny it. And when you get caught you deny it again.”
A Southern Company spokesman said in an email that the company funds “a broad range of research on a matter of topics that have potentially significant public policy implications for our business.”
About a third of Georgia’s electricity comes from coal. Southern Company has said it’s expanding its investments in renewable energy.